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WASHINGTON, DC-At the end of a two-day hearing period on Capitol Hill, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission has decided that the US Department of Defense’s May 13 list recommending the closure or realignment of 62 major bases and 775 less prominent installations needs some altering. To that end, the commission–an independent nine-member body charged with analyzing the selections and submitting a report to the Oval Office–voted on Tuesday to place more bases on the list for suggested closure or realignment; a move that followed extensive questions and answers on why the Defense Department put particular bases on the list in the first place, and why certain others were omitted.

Headed by chairman Anthony J. Principi, the commission supplemented the original list with Maine’s Brunswick Naval Air Station; California’s Naval Broadway Complex; Naval Master Jet Base in Virginia; Pope Air Force Base in NC; and Galena Airport Forward Operating Location in Arkansas. Monday’s and Tuesday’s public hearings offered the testimony of both the commission and witnesses from various arms of the Defense Department, including the US Marine Corps, Air Force and Naval Operations.

In addition to offering explanations for base choices in question, the Defense Department defended the plan to move forward with the 2005 round of closures, despite the billions of dollars being spent on US involvement in postwar-Iraq activities. “We can’t afford not to do BRAC,” Michael Wynne, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and infrastructure steering group chairman, testified. “We have got to come up with the resources in order to make this department more efficient, because the budget that we’re currently espousing cannot continue to grow at the level that it has, and therefore, we need to get ahead of that curve.”

For its part, the Defense Department has been vocal about its preference that the list it submitted two months ago remains intact. However, the commission is clearly steadfast in its pursuit to amend the department’s recommendations as it deems necessary. Principi, however, noted that any final changes to the list will have been be made “not because we have determined that we need to close or realign more bases than the Secretary of Defense has recommended, but because we want to make sure the best possible closure or realignment choices are made.”

Commission members will visit the newly proposed closure and realignment sites before voting again in August. The final report must be in the hands of the president by Sept. 8, after which point the commander-in-chief will be granted a two-week period to accept or deny the commissions recommendations.

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